Why ask why? The idea behind our survey

One of the favorite parts of my job is the opportunity to talk with and learn from many successful business people. I always like to ask them about how they started their business or entered their industry. Those conversations often range widely, and invariably wind up with them asking me questions. The one I get nearly every time is, “What are other people saying about their businesses?”

It’s universal. Business people want to know what other business people are thinking.

More than 15 years ago, Corey Chambas, now president and CEO of our holding company, had an idea. He has a lot of ideas, and he’s prone to say, “at least half of them are good ones.” Part of my job is to figure out which half. This one was a very good one.

The idea was to survey local business people anonymously about what they’re seeing in their local economy and how that’s affecting their businesses. The data from the survey would then help all the business owners forecast and plan for the upcoming year. The survey would include questions like:

  • How was your financial performance this year?
  • Do you plan to expand your business next year?
  • What challenges do you anticipate next year?

The First Business Economic Survey was born. Each fall, we ask business owners throughout our markets about their year and what they expect next year. It is an ongoing effort to provide business people answers to the questions they always want to ask.

This is work for First Business that goes far beyond just our clients. It’s important that all businesses benefit from the survey results, so we try to survey as many business people as possible, and we always share the results with everyone. After completing the survey, there’s an option to request the survey results via email when they’re available, and we hold various local economic panels and events based on the survey data and local trends each year.

The outreach to businesses and asking them to provide their feedback through the survey is a huge undertaking. The results are compiled by Dr. Moses Altsech of the University of Wisconsin–Madison Marketing Department, who has been our partner for many years. Moses provides his professional perspective on the results, including trends and environmental factors possibly influencing results from year to year.



We encourage business people to participate in the survey and to check out the results later this year. It is information that can be foundational as you formulate your budget, develop a broader business plan, and execute expansion efforts.

Economic surveys from past years are available through our website — our 2018 effort is just getting underway.

The surveys are completed in October and are presented at events in December and January. The events are held across our markets where business owners and local media can see the results and listen to a panel discussion about them for further insight.

I encourage you to watch for the survey results, join the effort, and consider the findings when they are published.

Mark Meloy serves as CEO of First Business Bank. He joined First Business in 2000 and has held various positions including executive vice president and president of First Business Bank.

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